A Civil Action - The Woburn Toxic Trial > Instructor Materials > Module 6 - Flooding > Potentiometric Activity Page

Potentiometric Activity Page

Kevin Svitana, Otterbein College
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Users will gain an understanding of how flooding can redistribute sediments and debris that occur and the floodplain. This phenomena was used during the trial to explain how contaminants from other locations could have been placed on the Wildwood property. It also was intended to dramatize how widespread pollution sources were in the Aberjona River drainage basin.

Learning Goals

Students can understand how predictive flood models are developed and described. They should have a familiarity with statistical probability and spatial distribution. Another important aspect is to have students be able to explain the statistical mechanisms used to describe flooding frequency in layman vocabulary. Another important goal of this module is to have students become familiar with how sediments are distributed during high flow of events. Floodplains are seldom engulfed by high velocity waters, they become the depositional point away from the higher energy portion of the main channel. So during a flooding event things that are moved to the higher velocity flows are redeposited in the lower velocity floodplain waters.

Context for Use

The module on flooding can provide students information regarding measuring streamflow in relation to stage, and how hydraulic data played an important role in assessing groundwater flow (e.g. water discharged from the river to groundwater during pumping) in the Woburn court case.

Description and Teaching Materials

Visual demonstrations of projecting flood frequency, similar to those on the SERC Teaching floods and flooding quantitatively web site. Having students manipulate data that is readily available from USGS and Army Corps of Engineers websites to provide a good 'hands-on-exercise' for analyzing streams stage and flooding.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Providing students with basic statistics regarding frequency and occurrence intervals may be an important first step when introducing this module. Live monitoring presented on US Army Corps of Engineers websites may provide good graphical references for drainages in the location where this module is being taught.


An effective assessment is to have students actually complete a flooding occurrence distribution graph. Visiting a floodplain of the local stream would also be informative for them to understand the dynamics and hydraulics of a channel cross-section as well as profile. Active assessment could be done in the form of questions while students are evaluating the data, this may help students gain an understanding as they work with hydrograph data.

References and Resources

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